CUI Theatre Chosen for Kennedy Center Honor Again

March 01, 2020 - 1 minute read


CUI’s theater program received yet another high honor from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), being invited to present the full show of Xanadu, a musical parody, at the organization’s regional showcase.

The musical, a spoof of the 1980 movie which starred Olivia Newton John, premiered in 2007. It caricatures the characters and the era, with plenty of glitter, spandex, disco balls, big hair, roller skates and dance music. The ensemble piece with 11 actors was a hit with CUI audiences in the fall.

Now the show will be viewed more widely.

“To my knowledge, it’s the first time we’ve had two invited shows in back-to-back years,” says theater department chair Lori Siekmann. “It means they consider it among the best shows in this region last year, which is a real validation of what we’re doing.”

KCACTF invites only six shows from the whole region to be staged in their entirety. Siekmann remembers wondering if the show would even work because of challenges involving sets, staging — and the fact that most of the cast would need to roller skate safely.

“Logistically we wondered, could the show fit into our space? Will we have enough actors who can roller skate proficiently enough to dance on their skates and not fall?” she says.

Some students worked on their roller skating skills over the summer. The set designer, too, came up with an innovative way involving moving panels to change scenes quickly.

The show captured the vibe of the late ‘70s with creative costuming, choreography and staging.

In addition to having an invited show, CUI’s theatre students garnered more accolades at the event. Three pairs of students make it to the Semifinals in the Irene Ryan scholarship audition (top 64 out of 350), with one pair making it to Finals (top 16). A student also made it into the Musical Theatre Initiative Cabaret, to sing for Broadway judges. These accomplishments showcase CUI’s program to the entire region.

“It was an amazing week and Xanadu was met with enthusiastic standing ovations at both festival performances!" says Siekmann. "Many students in attendance from junior colleges inquired about CUI as a possible place to complete their degree. We are very grateful for this opportunity! It means a lot to us that our work is recognized by KCACTF.”

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